“Permanent White Water”
Companies have to constantly go through changes small or large, from changing an IT software, employing new people, or changing management to restructurings and mergers. In the late 1980s, Peter Vaill, an organizational change theorist, started to observe how the business environment was becoming more and more defined by turmoil and change. He named the challenge of leading in this continuously changing and unpredictable context as leading in a world of “permanent white water” (Vaill, 1996), a reference to navigating on unpredictable, wild, turbulent river rapids. Making a parallel to our lives, personal or professional, “permanent white water” represents events that are surprising, novel, messy, costly, or unpreventable. These “permanent white water” circumstances are disruptive and take people out of their comfort zones. “Permanent white water” basically means to permanently live life outside one’s comfort zone.
Vaill writes that organizations and their members are constantly in the position of doing things they have little experience with or have never done before. He suggests that “permanent white water” requires people to become extremely effective learners and to accept that change is not the exception but the rule in today’s work environment. They have to be willing to learn, adapt, and embrace change.
Why Do Change Initiatives Fail?
Research indicates that approximately two-thirds of all organizational changes fail. Seve...
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...ployees who have self-esteem and self-confidence and who feel they are competent. Aligning with this group of employees during changing period is important for the success of the change. Managers should delegate some of the change management tasks to the enthusiastic employees because their passion can influence others around them. But not all employees are so enthusiastic. Most people are more rational. They don’t refuse to change, but they won’t directly accept changes. They watch from the sidelines, but remain open-minded. After a period of observation, if they find opportunities and benefits, they may accept the change. While they may not be eager participants in the change process initially, they at least acknowledge the possibility of adjusting to the change and express a willingness to learn new techniques and procedures.
Emotional Phases and Steps of Change
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